DATING A COUGAR II

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Sexy Walter is a genius. So why can’t he find a woman who is both smart and beautiful to date?

In book six of the “Never Too Late” series, a sexy, young fireman discovers his perfect woman is not just a fantasy he keeps having. Aided by his not-so-helpful family, Walter’s pursuit of Jane will make you laugh out loud in this entertaining romantic comedy.

Firefighter and eco-entrepreneur Walter Graham II is tired of unhappily dating. He wants to date Jane Fox who can turn on his body and keep up with his brain. Unfortunately, the sexy older woman is using her formidable logic to prove any relationship between them is a bad idea. But once he gets his reluctant cougar into bed, Walter intends to give Jane’s amazing mind something more important to focus on than their age difference.

Read Chapters 1 and 2

Chapter 1

What kind of woman could feel sorry for herself on a day as beautiful as this one? The sun was shining. The breeze was warm. Someone else was going to feed her.

Ignoring the unreasonable urge to whine in spite of all that, Jane sighed heavily instead, not once but twice, virtually assuring the woman beside her would have no choice but to notice. Was she really that desperate for attention?

“That’s a heavy sigh, Jane. What’s the matter?” Lydia asked.

The softly offered question was laced with sympathy and had Jane sighing heavily for a third time, even though she smiled at the silver-haired beauty strolling through the park with her.

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong really. I think I’ve just been bored trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. Flipping businesses is a passion for me, not just my work. Yet nothing has caught my interest since I sold North Winds to Walter. I’m glad you and Dad asked me to tag along on your picnic today. Obviously from all the sighing I’m doing, I needed to get out.”

“Oh dear. Given all that honesty you just rained on my head, I suppose I should do the honorable thing back. If JD gets a wild hair and shoots off, Morrie and I wanted a strong pair of legs along to help chase him down,” Lydia teased.

“You and Dad are physically fit enough to handle a measly toddler. Tell me the truth. Dad’s worried because I’m not working on anything new, isn’t he?” Jane asked.

Lydia shook her head. “No. If your father is worried about you, it’s about something other than work. He invited Walter to the picnic too, but our new entrepreneur was too busy to come. Just don’t tell your father I told you about him inviting Walter. He likes to think he’s clever . . . and not being obvious.”

Jane laughed at Lydia’s revelation but shook her head over the information. It still surprised her that her father thought Walter Graham was a good match for her. It was probably the only time in her life her father had been wrong.

“Yes, Dad does like to think he’s smarter than everyone else. But don’t worry . . . I’m used to his sneaky manipulations. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he would use my appreciation for your fried chicken and potato salad to get me here. The joke is on him though, I love watching JD under any circumstances. I keep telling Lauren and Jim to call me when they need a sitter.”

Lydia rolled her eyes. “It took a second baby on the way to get Lauren to turn loose of her firstborn at all. She still wants Nanny Martha to come to the house every day. I think he needs daycare and other children to play with so he can develop better social skills. I’m working on her overprotective mother leanings so she won’t turn out like me.”

Jane laughed at Lydia’s declaration but felt a twinge of envy. And for the first time in many years, she seriously missed her mother. Of course, even if Evelyn Fox were still alive, there would be no grandchildren for her mother and father to argue over. Neither she nor her brother, Elijah, had gotten that far in their relationships. No—changing her non-mother status certainly wasn’t on the visible horizon as far as she could see. She would just have to remain envious of Lauren getting to expand her late-life family.

“If she’s that concerned, I suppose it would be really hard for Lauren to trust an old single woman like me with her only child. She probably thinks I’m not the motherly type,” Jane said, shrugging at Lydia’s questioning gaze.

“What’s the motherly type these days? I don’t think Lauren saw herself as the motherly type until she discovered she was pregnant,” Lydia said, watching something that looked like hope flicker in Jane’s gaze, even though it faded quickly. “Do you want children, Jane?”

“Sure. Of course, I do. Or at least, I did when I was younger. From the time I hit puberty, I always saw myself becoming a mother one day. You know—I thought about soccer, band practice, and a giant gas-drinking van to haul that kind of life around. Maybe I missed my chance for that when I divorced my ex. I’m probably too old now.”

Lydia snorted and turned her head sideways. “Don’t think I don’t hear that wistfulness in your voice. Lauren was older than you when she had JD. I thank God every day that James Gallagher is his father. You’re smart to wait for the right man, but some take a long time to appear in your life. Just don’t let your eggs dry up while you’re waiting.”

Don’t let my eggs dry up?” Jane repeated dryly. “Gee, thanks for that helpful tip, Lydia. Maybe you should stop trying to make me feel better now.”

Lydia’s giggle at her response made Jane giggle in return. They were comfortable enough in each other’s company to tease without exchanging ugly reprisals. As stepmothers went, Lydia McCarthy Fox was turning out to be a pretty good one. Her father was certainly happy.

“JD! Get your butt back here, boy!”

Both women turned in the direction of the voice and laughed as they watched her silver-haired father chase off after the maniacal, squealing toddler scrambling away as fast as his sturdy legs would go. In JD’s case, his legs were exceptional and his escapes well-practiced. With a mother who had black belts in several martial arts almost no one could pronounce, Jane supposed the toddler’s physical prowess was genetically inevitable.

“Looks like the wild child is on the run,” Lydia announced tiredly, fisting a hand on one hip. “That boy . . .”

“No worries, Gamma. Just save me some chicken. I’m on it,” Jane said, chuckling as she passed the picnic blanket she carried to a chuckling Lydia.

Then she took off running after her recently acquired step-nephew by marriage. Thankfully she’d worn her sneakers and shorts today. Her laughter carried on the breeze as she passed up her father. “It’s okay. I’ll catch him, Dad.”

Like a marathon runner passing the torch, Morrison Fox stopped and put his hands on his knees, gathering a breath. “What are they feeding that kid? I swear he’s getting faster.”

Her father’s look of relief made Jane laugh harder, which made it nearly impossible to keep up her speed. JD Gallagher was going to grow up to be a marathon runner… or maybe that superhero with lightning on his shirt. Yes, that was it. Super JD, Jane decided, giggling hard at the fact that she was barely catching up to the toddler herself.

She heard his wicked laughter as JD broke into an even faster sprint, zigging and zagging a path in front of her. Now, who in blue blazes had shown him how to do that?

James Davis Gallagher. Stop running this instant,” Jane yelled, using the most commanding tone she possessed.

Up ahead, she saw JD slow only a fraction to look over his shoulder at his new pursuer. He grinned when he saw who it was. When he turned forward again, he hit and bounced off someone’s jean-covered leg. He landed hard on his chubby butt in the grass, his pull-up diaper cushioning the landing.

Ah—oh,” Jane heard him say as she closed in at last. His understanding that he was caught and in trouble made her giggle again. She sincerely hoped she could stifle her amusement before she got to him. She had learned the hard way that being charmed by his rebellion only made JD more apt to repeat the wicked behavior.

“Darn skippy it’s Ah—oh,” Jane mimicked, between deep gulping breaths. Her dad was right. The little bugger was getting faster. “You are in serious trouble now, buddy. Thanks for stopping him Mr… oh.”

Her gaze rose from JD to Walter Graham’s laughing blue eyes. “Hi,” she said, her greeting sounding breathless and giddy. Jane hoped it was because of the chase and not because of the sexy fireman slash entrepreneur’s sudden appearance out of nowhere to save the day. What was it about him that fascinated her so much? Her mind had not figured out the puzzle yet.

And why couldn’t Walter have been older than twenty-six? His name sounded older. If she hadn’t met Harrison first, she would have thought a guy named ‘Walter’ was someone’s grandfather. As a roman numeral ‘II’, he was hereditarily numbered. Why hadn’t Walter chosen to be called Harry? Lots of younger men who looked as fantastic as he did were called Harry.

“Trouble keeping up with your toddler, lady? Good thing I decided to come by for lunch after all,” he said.

Walter’s smile deepened as he watched Jane’s breasts moving up and down with her out-of-breath panting. He promised himself that one day soon he’d be causing that reaction.

“I thought you weren’t coming,” Jane declared, staring into Walter’s dancing gaze while trying to ignore the way it kept dropping to her heaving chest. Unfortunately, her breasts loved the attention and decided to get all perky and happy to see him. She was going to have to have a serious talk with her girl parts about letting Walter affect them that way.

“Hi, Jane. I’ve been missing you too,” Walter said, grinning when she covered her breasts with crossed arms. Even her sports bra and shirt couldn’t hide her whole reaction. Turning Jane on was never a problem. Getting her to admit he caused her arousal was the bigger challenge.

“I didn’t say I missed you, Walter. I said hello. You need to quit hanging around Harrison so much. He’s trying to pass along his delusions,” Jane said.

Distracted by the Greek god statue laughing at her with lust in his eyes, she had momentarily forgotten about the toddler climbing to his unsteady, but very fast feet. Fortunately, Walter had a keen eye, and obviously the ability to think clearly despite his wicked gaze dropping to her breasts every few seconds. It was a split focus she evidently lacked where watching him was concerned. Walter snatched JD up mid-sprint just as the toddler tried to run again.

Whoa there. Your escape is foiled, dude,” Walter announced, deepening his voice as he tried not to laugh at JD’s squirming protests. He wondered if all kids were like this one. If so, he could see how they could be a lot of work.

“Hep, Gamma. Hep. He got me,” JD wailed, kicking his feet as he dangled in the air.

Jane turned to see Lydia walking calmly toward them, a toddler leash in her hand. “I be good. I be good,” JD pleaded dramatically when he saw what she held.

“You know the rules, young man. You run away. You get put on the leash,” Lydia said in her best scolding voice.

Walter laughed, then coughed, trying to cover it. Jane put a hand over her mouth as she giggled again. They exchanged guilty looks as they tried to hide their amusement from Lydia, but as usual, the older woman was way too sharp.

“Wait until you have children of your own one day, and then we’ll see how much laughing you two do. Walter, hold JD out for me so I can fasten this on him,” Lydia ordered.

“Yes ma’am,” Walter said politely, biting his lip as he held a now subdued, sniffling JD out to his grandmother.

Lydia fastened the straps around JD’s chest and then nodded for Walter to set him down on the ground. Once there, JD tugged against the restraint, wanting to run again, but Lydia held him back. “Not just yet, boy-o. Apologize to Jane first for making her chase after you.”

Orry,” JD said softly, still sniffling as he tugged against the leash.

Jane stooped down and smiled into JD’s pouty but charming face. “No worries, buddy. I just didn’t want you to get hurt.”

She was caught off-guard when JD hurled his whole body into her arms. His fierce hug almost toppled her backward, and then he surprised her further with a loud, smacking kiss on her cheek before turning loose. All that male enthusiasm was certainly appealing, Jane thought as she hugged him back. Lauren was going to have her hands full when her son one day used that move on some unsuspecting female his own age.

“Okay. Okay. We’re good, JD. Let’s all go have some lunch now,” Jane said, petting the boy’s hair.

JD nodded in reply and turned to put his hand into his grandmother’s.

Standing again, Jane sighed as she watched Lydia and JD walk away. She heard Walter laughing softly beside her. Why did he have to be so masculine and appealing? His appeal was worse than JD’s, and his low laughter had her wondering if he possessed any moves that might surprise her. Curiosity was her major problem with him.

Despite the risk of her girl parts betraying her further, she studied Walter’s amused eyes, his smooth skin, and the way his hair fell perfectly into place. He seemed to have no awareness of how great he looked, no false bravado about the muscles bulging from his sleeves. Why couldn’t the younger man have just been a little bit older? Thirty-one or two would have been okay. She could have handled that. But he was only twenty-six. It would take him four more years to even become thirty. Pushing her regrets over their age difference aside, along with all her fantasies, she turned and started walking back.

“I’ve dubbed him Super JD in my head. Lauren and Jim have my utmost respect. I don’t think I could survive mothering a child like that,” she said.

“If it’s any consolation, I’m sure any child of ours would be much better behaved,” Walter replied, sliding a look sideways to watch Jane’s reaction to his comment. As he knew it would, her suspicious gaze came immediately to his. She gave him the same look she always did when he started talking about the life they should have together.

“I think my mothering years are behind me, Walter. I’ve decided to settle for being an aunt,” Jane said.

“Super JD’s aunt?” Walter asked, snickering as they walked. “I can see how being around a child like that for very long might tempt a woman to put a gag on her biological clock to keep it from ticking too loudly.”

Jane chuckled at his surprisingly astute statement, wishing she didn’t find him so likable. “Yes, exactly. Plus, Super JD won’t necessarily be my only nephew. I have a younger brother, so more are possible. I haven’t seen Elijah in a while, but I get an email from him now and again. He’s at a seminary.”

“Studying to be a priest?” Walter asked. “No… wait… that’s not right. A rabbi?”

Jane nodded as she smiled. “You’re at least in the right religion but Elijah is not planning to become a rabbi. Dad was going to be one when he was young, but then he met Mom and changed his mind. He said having a family and pursuing that calling full-time were too much for him to contemplate. And now that he has Lydia…”

She shrugged away the inference and the complication. Her dad hadn’t talked about being a rabbi in years anyway. “Life goals change, I guess. Elijah might be considering such a leadership role in our faith, but he hasn’t said.”

Walter nodded to let her know he had heard and was taking it all in. The ability to carry on a serious conversation was one of the things he liked most about Jane. Every moment with her counted, even if they were only talking about each other’s families. He wanted Jane Fox and he liked her. She was the combination of female traits that just completely worked for him. Now, he just needed to find a way to convince her of that fact.

“So what is your brother studying at the seminary, if not to become a rabbi?” Walter asked, hoping to distract himself from wanting to wrestle her arms down and find out what secrets her crossed arms were hiding from him.

Jane slowed her steps as she considered the question. “I think Elijah is trying to figure out how to get over his broken heart. His fiancée broke up with him around the same time my marriage ended. He left for seminary the week after and hasn’t been home since.”

“Tough break for both of you,” Walter said quietly, thinking about what he would do if Jane were to try to marry someone other than him. As much as he wanted her, it would probably be something that would get him arrested, or at the very least disowned by his conservative parents. Regardless, he would do whatever necessary to stop it from happening.

“Yes, it was a tough break. His breakup was worse than my divorce in some ways. Even though Mom and Dad set a good example for us, Eli and I just haven’t been as lucky in love as they were,” Jane said.

“Not lucky until now, you mean,” Walter corrected. “You’ve found the perfect pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with me, Jane. I’m going to make you a great husband.”

“Do you have any idea how much you sound like one of Harrison’s crazy schemes when you talk like that? Give it up, Walter. I haven’t gotten any younger since the last time you flirted so hard with me. There’s no audience for the joke, and we’ve had this discussion too many times,” Jane said wearily.

Sure, a few months ago she had joked with Lydia’s daughter and her friends about becoming a cougar, but inside . . . inside Jane knew she was not equipped to date someone as young as Walter. She just wasn’t the same kind of woman as Alexa Ranger. Her self-esteem wasn’t strong enough to deal with the difference in their ages… or their bodies.

Thirty-nine was around the corner. Turning forty next year was an even stronger motivation to keep her distance. She was already going soft in the waist. When the lines and wrinkles started owning the rest of her body’s real estate, she didn’t want to see pity in some younger man’s gaze every day. No matter how outstanding Walter might be as a sexy guy, she preferred to avoid the inevitable crash and burn that any smart older woman would see coming from involvement with someone as young as him.

Her ex had found her lacking when she was young and at her best—perpetually perky breasts included. Maybe Walter was a very different sort of man, but could a woman really tell with a man under thirty? Too bad she hadn’t met Walter before she had married Nathan. Things might have been different when she was still young and optimistic herself.

Well, except that Walter would have been a teenager and she’d have been put in jail for molesting a kid. Jane rolled her eyes and shook her head at that particularly awful thought.

Jane…” Walter said her name loudly, hoping to interrupt whatever thoughts were making her frown so hard. What the hell was it going to take to convince her that he had a serious admiration for her, as well as chronic lust? If the words existed, he hadn’t found them yet.

“No matter what you say, Jane, I’m not giving up on us,” he insisted, despite hearing Jane sighing over his statement. Maybe it had not been the most erudite declaration he’d ever made to her, but at least the determination in his tone matched what he was feeling. Jane’s adamant rejections of his overtures always shook his faith a little, but not enough to quit.

“Walter, you need to stop teasing me,” Jane ordered.

“Oh, I am definitely not teasing. Have you found an older guy who turns you on as much as I do yet?” he asked.

Jane huffed out a breath. She wasn’t sexually stupid, and neither was the man beside her. Walter wanted her sexually. And there was plenty of chemistry between them to make that potentiality appealing to her too. He’d already gotten her to admit it once. Maybe if they weren’t practically living in each other’s pockets with their families so close, but no. She just couldn’t go there either. Not even in her imagination.

It was better to keep her relationship with Walter like it was. Innocent. Friendly. Familial.

“I’m hungry. Aren’t you? I think I’ll go help Lydia set up lunch,” she said, hoping she sounded casual and undisturbed, despite her rapid, excited pulse proving otherwise.

Picking up her pace, she headed toward the picnic table where a repentant, restrained JD played with his toys under his grandparents’ watchful eyes. It was always tough to turn her back on the attraction that drew her to the man following slowly behind her.

If her dating life didn’t start to improve soon, it was going to get much harder to do, especially if Walter kept talking about babies every time he saw her. Not that she wanted babies with Walter. Babies just made her think about how they were made, a process she would definitely like to explore with him.

“I’m hungry too, Jane. Starved in fact,” Walter called loudly, not missing Jane’s stumble as she heard his words. It made him grin to see she hadn’t become immune to him yet, no matter how much his pursuit of her warred with her logic. Why was the woman fighting the attraction between them so hard? If he ever got her in bed, he was going to make sure that Jane stopped thinking of him as a kid.

Shaking his head over his carnal thoughts of how he could prove himself, Walter let his gaze follow Jane’s shapely rear to the picnic area. Her shorts showed off her muscular, attractive legs to perfection. Her streamlined thighs and toned calves offered convincing evidence that she worked out to achieve them. Admiration filled him, along with visions of Jane in a gym. She’d be sweaty, but her eyes would be twinkling. Her mouth would be firmed as she worked. Her seriousness was a constant challenge to him. It was also one of the things that turned him on the most. Would he ever discover anything about the older woman that he didn’t like? Somehow he doubted it.

But obviously, he needed a better plan for finding out.

 

Chapter 2

“Thank you all for volunteering. You need to lose your shirts and see Megan in the kitchen to get oiled. Mr. January, you’re up first, so head to the front of the line please.”

Walter grinned at the shock on some of the firefighters’ faces. Then he watched the photographer adjust his camera on the tripod, grinning harder when the man looked up with a frown.

“Can somebody not in the calendar please go stand by the fire engine? We’ll get through this faster if I can preset the height for the shots. I’d like to get these done before you all have to take a call.”

Glad he had opted out of the list of guys posing for the calendar, Walter dipped his head and grinned at the black soot smear on his white t-shirt. He had been tasked with collecting the heavy but apparently un-photogenic water hoses from the side of the newly washed engine to move them out of the camera’s sight.

Besides, his parents would kill him if he ended up bare-chested and shiny for all of Falls Church to see. Leland and April Graham still hated to see their only son wearing his regulation uniform even for parades and festivals.

And Harrison? Harrison would have a massive stroke laughing his ass off at a bare-chested photo of him in a cheesy beefcake calendar.

“Hey—tall guy in the dirty T-shirt.”

Grinning about his grandfather’s keen sense of irony, Walter stopped and pointed to his chest, grinning more when the photographer nodded.

“Do you mind helping me?” the man asked.

Accompanied by a chorus of jokes thrown his way about how cute and photogenic he was in his dirty clothes, Walter walked to the fire engine and stood where the man requested. He watched as the photographer bent, looked through the lens, then stood and glanced around.

“We need something to fill out the space. Got a jacket? Or maybe a hat and an ax? A big ax? Biggest thing you got,” the photographer said.

Snickering like a kid in middle school over the man’s unintentional innuendo, Walter lifted the door of one of the boxes on the side of the engine behind him. He took out a hat, and then pulled the giant fire ax, used to break through walls, from its hanger. Hefting it without grunting was the reason he’d been lifting weights for years. He closed the box with a bang that brought all eyes to him as he turned back.

“Will these do?” Walter asked, mouth twisted in a smirk despite the little voice in his head lecturing him to act mature.

“Yes. Great. Can you stand the ax handle down, but blade up, without it cutting you?” the photographer asked.

Walter nodded and laughed as he complied.

Excellent. I wish all guys were as sharp as you. Now perch the hat on the side of the ax—yes, just like that. That’s fantastic. Now lean it out just a bit to your right,” the photographer ordered, leaning down to the lens again. “Now hold it… yes, right there. Perfect.”

Fascinated with the unglamorous pose the guy was orchestrating, Walter smirked again as he heard the camera clicking away. Someone yelled “My, Walter, what a big ax you have” which caused him to belly laugh as he raised his head to look for the culprit. The photographer said nothing about his movement, just kept snapping away. Walter chuckled at several of his now oiled-up fellow firemen rubbing their chests and making kissing motions to him as they looked on.

“Laugh all you want, dudes. I’m not the one covered in cooking oil. And I still have on all my clothes.” Walter thumped his chest with his fist and swept a hand down over his T-shirt, cackling when several oily middle fingers were raised in his direction.

His smile was wide with amusement as he struck a model pose with the ax to heckle them, sliding the edge of his shirt halfway up his stomach as they whooped and hollered for him to take it all the way off.

“Are you kidding? None of you guys are pretty enough to see me naked,” Walter declared, lowering his shirt as he gave his full attention back to the photographer. “Need me anymore?”

The photographer shook his head from side-to-side. “Thanks for the help. What’s your name? You’re not on my calendar roster, are you?”

Walter snickered again as he shook his head. “No. My parents would kill me if I posed for the calendar.”

The photographer laughed and pulled a business card out of his pocket. “How would they feel if you wore suits instead? Modeling can be quite lucrative with looks like yours.”

“If that’s a come on, don’t bother, dude. I’m straight,” Walter said easily. He shrugged and grinned when the guy’s laugh echoed off the walls.

“So am I, Mr… are you going to tell me your name?”

The photographer was smiling wickedly now. Thinking the guy had to be gay regardless of what he said, Walter wasn’t keen on giving his name, but it wasn’t like he couldn’t handle the attention. His family had excelled at being in the public eye, even though his mother often lamented his tendency to just say what he thought. Discretion was hard for him and he didn’t see that it ever helped matters much.

“The name is Graham. Walter Graham. I’m not interested in being a model, Mr…” Walter paused and looked down at the business card in his fingers, “Ames. I’m working on my MBA and just recently bought a business. Between that and firefighting, I’m completely booked for work.”

He tried to hand the business card back, but Marcus Ames, Artistic Photographer—whatever that meant—shook his head and held up a hand.

“Keep it, kid. You never know when you’ll need extra cash,” Ames said, saluting. “Thanks for helping me set up the shoot.”

Walter watched Ames look around the firehouse until his gaze landed on the growing group of oiled, grinning men waiting for their turn in front of the camera.

Mr. January? I’m ready for you,” Ames yelled.

Still questioning the man’s sexual leanings, Walter snorted and tucked the guy’s card into his pocket. At least helping Ames would be a good story to tell Harrison over dinner that evening.

***

“You should be proud of me, Harrison. Today I turned down a chance to be in the fundraising calendar. I was feeling pretty righteous until I realized I had also passed up a chance to let the photographer’s cute assistant rub oil on my chest. That wouldn’t have happened a few months ago. Maybe I should just move on like Jane says.”

Walter frowned at his own story, remembering the twenty-something woman who had slipped her phone number into his pocket right next to her employer’s business card. The handwritten note about what she had in mind for their hookup was certainly creative. She had been very cute too. But neither her nor her wicked suggestion had made him twitchy enough to follow up.

And it was all Jane Fox’s fault. Her and her tight skirts. Or baggy work pants covering hips that swayed when she walked. Or those shorts she wore to the picnic in the park that showed the sleekest, most inviting thighs he had ever seen on a woman. He’d do just about anything for a single slide between them just to see if they were as nice as they looked. He would slowly, very slowly lift her legs behind her knees and wrap all that silkiness around his waist.

“If you did that, Leland and April would probably kill you, even if you are their only child,” Harrison said, sipping his half an ounce of cognac as he fought not to laugh at his grandson’s guilty flush.

“What? How would they . . .” Walter stopped, rubbing his chin stubble as he remembered what they had been discussing. Wow. His mind had certainly taken a side trip from the original conversation. Jane’s thighs were highly distracting. “You mean the calendar? Yeah . . . you’re right. Mom and Dad would have a fit if I posed for it.”

“What did you think I was talking about?” Harrison demanded with a laugh. “Wine going to your head, Walter?”

“No.” Walter closed his eyes, but all he saw was the woman that he couldn’t get to give him a freaking chance. “Sorry I’m so distracted tonight. It’s not the company. I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately.”

Harrison waved away Walter’s apology. At his age, it was the little things in life that made it worth staying alive. Having his grandson’s company at dinner was one of the best ones. Of course, some great-grandchildren with genius IQs might be nice too.

He smiled when Walter’s loud sigh of frustration drowned out Tchaikovsky’s violins in the background. Only one thing was going to soothe the boy. Only one woman had the power. God, how well he remembered that feeling. Probably a hundred women had passed through his life but memories of only one woman would follow him to the grave. “What’s upsetting you, Walter? Jane still holding out on you?”

“Yes. And I think I’m obsessed. There’s been no woman in my life for months, but I didn’t jump at the chance to change that today when I could have. Worse, I wasn’t even tempted. All I can think about is Jane, but I know she’s dating other men. Why am I not dating other women? What’s wrong with this picture?” Walter complained, laughing as he pounded his forehead. He picked up his half-finished wine and took another sip.

Smiling into his own glass, Harrison sipped his cognac slowly, savoring every drop. “You’ve got a hereditary disease, Walter Graham. I was a little bit older than you when it happened to me. I dated and dated and dated, but my dick just wasn’t interested. It wanted your grandmother. There were no substitutes.”

After his initial shock had morphed into mortification, Walter laughed at Harrison’s crude explanation, fighting not to choke on his discomfort. His face flamed at the ludicrous idea, but inside there was a tiny voice asking if such a thing could be the truth. His face flushed harder at Harrison’s low laughter. Maybe he was starting to understand all the warnings his dad kept giving him about his grandfather’s crazy theories.

“I don’t think I’m old enough to be having this conversation, Harrison. Get back to me when I’m forty,” Walter said, setting down his wine. He’d obviously had enough to drink for one evening. Maybe he wasn’t hearing correctly. It had been a discouraging day all around.

“It doesn’t surprise me that you would scoff at the possibility, Walter. Since your father was a scientist, he didn’t believe me at first either. Leland even went to a doctor to be checked. They ran all kinds of tests, and of course, the results came back with nothing physically wrong with his equipment. Hell, Leland had chased girls since he was thirteen. Your grandmother and I lived in fear that he was going to forget protection one day. When I finally figured out what was going on, April was already engaged to someone else. All his fancy degrees didn’t help him see his real problem. I love him dearly but Leland was never all that smart about practical things.”

Walter laughed and rubbed his face. “Is there a point to this story? And can you explain it without a description of Dad’s potentially defective man parts?”

Harrison shook his head, grinning at Walter’s discomfort. “It’s a Graham physical failing, Walter. Only one we really have. I call it one-woman-dick-itis.”

Walter laughed out loud at the term. Really there was nothing else to do. Harrison had told him some crazy things over the years, but this one was near the top of the unbelievable list. Maybe at eighty, all it took was a swallow or two of cognac to make you stupid drunk. That had to be Harrison’s excuse for the zany story. Nothing else explained it. But he bit anyway as he always did with Harrison.

“Are you trying to tell me that I’m not going to be able to get it up for any woman but Jane Fox? I’m gone on her—sure—but I can’t see that being the case with me. She’s not the only woman in the world, Harrison. That woman today was just as physically attractive,” Walter said.

Harrison made a face and nodded. “You’d think that because you’re a confident man, and because you don’t know how bad it can be. Every time your father tried to fool around with someone else, his equipment failed him. I tried to tell him that it just doesn’t work that way. His mind had chosen a woman and his body was just backing it up. Being a scientist though, Leland had to fail quite a bit before he accepted it as a fact. It was almost too late by the time he came to me for help.”

“Are you telling me my world-renowned physicist father, Leland Graham, not only bought into your one-woman theory but also asked you for help?”

“Yes. That was right before he broke up your mother’s engagement. Did he ever tell you about that? He planted himself in front of April until her fiancé came around, then Leland kissed her like he owned her. Your father took a punch to the chin for it and got knocked on his brainy ass. April ran to his side and her fiancé dumped her for being sympathetic. Never been more proud of your father, not even when he was nominated for that hoity-toity science award,” Harrison said, grinning at the memory as the last of his cognac slid down smoothly.

“The hoity-toity science award was the Nobel Prize in Physics, Harrison,” Walter said, leaning back in his chair to shake his head. “And Dad said he married Mom because she was the only woman who understood how important his work was to him.”

Harrison snorted at the vanilla story. “Bullshit. What he told you was pure crapola. Leland Graham was smitten and stupid with it. He kept your mother in bed for six months after he broke up her engagement and married her as soon as he could to make sure she stayed there. Whatever it was April was looking for in a man, Leland made sure she found it in him. I’ve questioned a lot of things about your father over the years but his love for your mother has never been one of them. They still have the same kind of love between them that I had with your grandmother. I only wish your Aunt Rue would have gotten that lucky. I’m hoping you do and that I live long enough to see it.”

“Not that I’m really buying any of this, but since we’re talking about how to get someone’s attention, got any ideas how to get Jane to give me a chance?” Walter asked.

Harrison shook his head. “Not yet… but I’m working on it.”

Walter climbed to his feet feeling lightheaded. He rarely drank and tried to keep it to red wine or a couple of beers when he did. His system just didn’t handle alcohol well. He hoped the wine didn’t give him a hangover tomorrow. The eco architects were coming by to examine the grounds at North Winds.

“Headed back to my place now, Harrison. Need anything before I go?” Walter asked.

“Just a hug,” Harrison replied, stretching up a little as his grandson bent to him. “Goodnight, Walter. Thanks for listening to an old coot’s stupid theories.”

“Goodnight, Harrison. See you at the office tomorrow. Don’t be in a hurry unless you want to watch me train Amanda.”

Harrison shook his head. “No need. You made a good decision there.”

Walter nodded. “Thanks. I had a good feeling about her. If she works out, I can focus all my energy on the renovations. I really didn’t want to deal with residence problems. It took about two days for that to become completely clear to me. I don’t know how Jane did it.”

“Jane is a special kind of person,” Harrison said, waving goodbye as Walter nodded, sighed, and closed the door behind him.

***

Jane checked her watch again. Her date had excused himself twenty minutes ago and hadn’t returned. She drummed her fingers on the table, wondering what she would have to tip the waiter to get him to check on him in the restroom. The restaurant was in the process of closing. Only two tables with customers were left and she sat at one of them.

“Excuse me,” Jane said, flagging down her waiter. “Could I ask you a big favor? My date went to the bathroom and I’m starting to get worried about him.”

The waiter stared at her with surprise widening his gaze.

“What’s the matter? Did I offend you with my question? If so, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t ask, but I really am worried,” Jane explained, smiling to show her sincerity.

“That guy you came in with was your date?” he asked.

“Yes,” Jane answered cautiously, tilting her head. “Why do you ask it that way?”

“That guy left about twenty minutes ago. I figured you knew. Sorry.”

Jane watched the waiter pause for a moment, probably to let her absorb the information, but her mind just couldn’t quite take it in. When she didn’t answer fast enough, the guy served up the rest of her humiliation as fast as his lips could move.

“Don’t take it too hard, ma’am. This happens a couple times a week. Want me to get the manager? He’ll let you come in and pay tomorrow if you can’t pay tonight. He’s a really nice guy about women who get stiffed.”

Jane’s mouth opened and closed in surprise. Pay. Of course. She’d have to pay for the hundred-twenty-dollar dinner they had both eaten. Unbelievable. The guy had just run away and left her to pay for the meal.

“No. That won’t be necessary.” She dug in her purse and pulled out a credit card. “Here. This will take care of it.”

The waiter looked sadly at her for a moment before rushing away to settle the bill.

After he left, Jane leaned back in her chair and stared in shock at the empty chair across from her. All through dinner she had been thinking what an attentive man her date had been. He’d asked her questions, listened to her answers.

How could he have just left?

She shook her head at how foolish she felt. So much for her online dating foray. She could definitely mark investing in one of those services off her potential new projects list.

When the waiter returned, she tried to offer a confident smile as he left the receipt for her to sign. She bent to the task, mumbling to herself as she added on a healthy tip for the waiter’s embarrassed honesty.

“Just give up the search, Jane. There are no good men left in Falls Church to date.”

Masculine laughter reached her ears and had her lifting her head. Sitting at the table next to hers was a man dressed in business clothes.

“Sorry. But that’s a pretty harsh denouncement, don’t you think?” he asked.

“Not really. My much lighter wallet doesn’t think so either,” Jane said, laying the pen down on the receipt.

The waiter grabbed it and ran away from her faster than JD making one of his escapes. Fine. What did she care what a stranger thought of her situation? She gathered her things and stood. All she wanted right now was to put the sad, sorry evening behind her.

“You’re way too young to be so jaded. Go out with me sometime. Let me prove to you that there are at least a few good men left in town,” he ordered.

“No thanks,” Jane said, shaking her head. “I’ve decided not to date strangers anymore.”

“Probably a smart idea,” he said with a nod.

Jane watched as the man rose from his table, walked over, and held out a manicured hand for her to shake. She took her time in responding, looking at his hand, his suit, and his nice face before putting her hand in his. The man was probably her age, she guessed. A little too polished for her taste but he had kind eyes.

She shook his hand like she would a business client’s. “Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Jane Fox—eternal dating optimist—but not as gullible as tonight’s situation indicates. I’m just having a lousy week.”

“Nice to meet you too, Jane Fox. My name is Kenneth Adams. What are you doing for dinner tomorrow night?” he asked.

“Eating at home. It’s way cheaper and far less embarrassing,” Jane answered.

Her mood lifted when Kenneth Adams smiled at her self-effacing joke, revealing a dimple in his cheek. She liked the way he was biting his lip to keep from laughing too.

“What if I promise to pay for dinner before I run out the door no matter how we get along?” Kenneth asked.

Jane snorted, dropped his hand, and sighed. “Oh, why not? How much worse can you be? No, don’t answer that. Let me just pretend that I’m going out with the last nice guy in Falls Church. It’s an illusion but I really need one right now. It will make retelling this story a whole lot better later.”

His amused smile of approval got an answering one in return from her. Her foolish date tonight had cost her a lot of money, but as she climbed into a cab, Jane decided she’d had much worse ones. Kenneth Adams was the most promising man she’d met in a long time.

Reviews

The entire “Never too Late” series is a romantic set of novels filled with humor, characters rich with emotion, and overall delightful storylines in each. The heroes are hot and definitely swoon-worthy. Ms. McDonald’s novels will capture your attention from the beginning of each story, and keep you turning page after page until the end. I love this series so much!. ~ Christy, Tyhada Reads

Connected Books: NEVER TOO LATE SERIES


Dating A Cougar

Book 1

Dating Dr. Notorious

Book 2

Dating A Saint

Book 3

Dating A Metro Man

Book 4

Dating A Silver Fox

Book 5

Dating A Pro

Book 7

FAST FACTS:

SERIES: NEVER TOO LATE, BOOK SIX

PUBLISHER: CREATESPACE PUBLISHING

FORMAT: TRADE PAPERBACK & EBOOK

LENGTH: 260 PAGES

RELEASE DATE (PRINT): FEBRUARY 14, 2014

E-BOOK ISBN: 978-1-939988-08-9

PRINT ISBN-13: 978-1-492861-10-2